Trump Budget Outline Presents Regional Political Risks

The Trump administration has released it’s first spending draft, kicking off the 2018 fiscal year budget cycle.

President Donald Trump revealed his first budget blueprint on Thursday, proposing to eliminate a cleanup program for the Great Lakes Basin, legal aid for the poor, low-income heating assistance and other federal funds that will affect Michigan.

Trump’s budget plan would slash the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by nearly a third, including reductions for the agency’s enforcement and compliance office and ending the $300 million-a-year Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, among other regional efforts.

The EPA cuts are drawing significant attention and one proposed cut highlights how spending priorities and political realities are often in tension.

The Great Lakes Restoration Imitative faces a substantial cut under Trump’s plan.

Environmental groups and local public officials are condemning these proposed cuts and calling on Congress to not approve them. They would result in a drop in funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative from $300 million to $10 million. That means funding for projects like keeping Asian carp and other invasive species out of Lake Michigan, restoration of wetlands and the Indiana Dunes, and cleanup projects along the waterways in the region that feed into Lake Michigan.

Elected officials from the region, Republican and Democratic alike, have attacked the proposed cuts.

Of the 8 states that border on one or more of the Great Lakes, Donald Trump won 6. Illinois and New York are deep blue states that won’t be flipping to the GOP anytime soon and Indiana is a reliably red state. Ohio is the only true swing state of the group, though it’s been trending more Republican over time.

Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin are new to the GOP presidential camp and Trump will want and need to repeat his victories there come 2020.

That leaves Minnesota which has been a reliably blue state for decades but is an under the radar target for the GOP.

The entire state, save for Minneapolis, moved decisively to the right, from non-incumbent cycle to non-incumbent cycle. A bigger campaign in the state by candidate Trump could have given him the whole enchilada. Minnesota’s Democratic lean has eroded over the last four decades, so much so that it voted to the right of the country for the first time in seventy years.

In addition to the presidential level politics the GOP will be targeting seats in many of these same states (think Indiana, Minnesota, and Wisconsin and to a lesser extent Michigan and Pennsylvania) in 2018. There are also potential House and Governor races that will either provide GOP pick-up opportunities or critical defense against Democratic advances throughout the region.

One program alone will not determine the outcome of these races but the cycle of elections-policy-politics will be playing out over the next few months and years as Trump comes to grips with advancing his agenda which may not always be in sync with his party or his voting base.